Microsoft has released a list of 800 applications it has officially verified to run bug-free on Windows Vista.
The list is notable for both its brevity and the absence of many applications popular on Windows XP, although Microsoft and analysts said that the majority of XP software can run, albeit with hiccups, on Vista.
Popular Windows software that is conspicuously missing from Microsoft's list includes Adobe's entire line of graphics and multimedia software, Symantec's security products, as well as Mozilla’s Firefox web browser, Skype's voice-over-IP software and the OpenOffice.org alternative to Microsoft Office.
Software that has been tested as part of Microsoft's Vista certification programme to run on all 32- and 64-bit versions of Vista include CorelDraw and WordPerfect from Corel, PowerDVD from Cyberlink, Nero 7 Premium, Trend Micro AntiVirus and PC-Cillin, AutoCad 2008, QuickBooks 2007 from Intuit, Microsoft Office 2007 and many other Microsoft applications.
In addition, Google's Desktop Search and its Toolbar for Internet Explorer have earned Microsoft's approval.
Windows' extensive software ecosystem has long been one of the operating system's chief attractions. But Vista's long beta programme last year allowed users to start compiling their own lists of applications that they claimed were broken or problematic on Vista.
Many of those were graphics-intensive games, which was the result of a new rendering engine, DirectX 10, introduced for Vista. But there are also a number of business and utility applications that have not been updated to ensure Vista compatibility. For instance, the latest version of Skype doesn't work on Vista. Firefox does work, though Mozilla has documented known issues.
Most of Adobe's multimedia software won't be officially supported for Vista until the middle of this year, though many applications can run today with minor problems (download PDF).
Adobe, which will face competition from Microsoft this year when Microsoft releases its Expression suite of graphics and multimedia design tools, did not immediately return a request to comment.
Symantec is already facing similar competition from Microsoft, which released its Windows OneCare security suite last year.
In statements on its website aimed at business and home users, Symantec said some of its software, such as Norton AntiVirus 2007, already works with Vista. Other Symantec software, such as Ghost 12, won't be ready until mid-April.
Microsoft's Vista testing programme, which vendors must pay to be a part of, has two levels: software that is "certified for Windows Vista" and software that "works with Windows Vista”. At the moment, 108 applications have been certified, while 683 have been awarded the "works with" distinction.
Microsoft said that getting certified will bring marketing benefits to software, such as a listing on Microsoft's Windows Marketplace site in the US and the ability to use the logo on packaging and publicity materials.
Michael Silver, a Gartner analyst, said that because of the cost and time involved, "a lot of vendors don't participate" in Microsoft's programme.
For companies that tend to run both off-the-shelf software as well as custom applications written in-house, Silver said that the percentage of applications with problems on Vista runs as high as 50 percent in some companies but is less than 10 percent in others. While many of those problematic applications won't need to be replaced, he said, "there's a good chance for disappointment for people that aren't careful."